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Mohamed Salah scored twice as Liverpool stretched Newcastle’s miserable run with a 4-2 victory at Anfield to open up a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League on Monday.
Jurgen Klopp’s team should have run out even more convincing winners as Martin Dubravka saved Salah’s first-half penalty among 10 stops.
But Salah made amends from the spot after he, Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo had netted in the second half to inflict a seventh defeat in eight games on Newcastle.
Liverpool head into the Premier League’s winter break five points clear of title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal, with Aston Villa posing an unexpected challenge in second place.
Newcastle, by contrast, remain down in ninth and 11 points off the top four as the spotlight grows on Eddie Howe.
The Magpies have the second worst away record in the Premier League this season and were fortunate not to be blown away by an embarrassing scoreline in stormy conditions at Anfield.
Trent Alexander-Arnold had sent the first warning shot just wide inside two minutes as Liverpool flew out of the blocks.
Dubravka has struggled to deputise for the sidelined Nick Pope as Newcastle’s form has slumped in recent weeks while battling an injury crisis.
But the Slovakian was in top form as he denied Darwin Nunez from close range.
Luis Diaz did have the ball in the net shortly afterwards, but the goal was ruled out for offside against Nunez.
Diaz was then upended in the box by Sven Botman. But Dubravka bailed out the Dutch defender by denying Salah his 150th Premier League goal for Liverpool from the spot.
The Egyptian, who was playing in his final game before heading out to the African Cup of Nations, has now missed four of his last 10 spot-kicks for the Reds.
Liverpool’s frustration grew as the first half wore on and they were inches away from being hit with a sucker punch.
Dan Burn headed in at the far post, but this time the offside flag saved the home side as Alexander Isak strayed beyond the last defender earlier in the move.
Salah makes amends
Finally Liverpool’s pressure told early in the second period as for once Nunez showed a cool head to pick out Salah for a tap in.
Nunez should then have put the game beyond doubt as twice Dubravka stood up and showed strong wrists to parry powerful efforts from the Uruguayan.
And completely against the run of play, Newcastle equalised just five minutes after falling behind.
This time Isak timed his run to perfection to latch onto Anthony Gordon’s through ball and the Swedish striker slotted confidently past the advancing Alisson Becker.
That shock did not change the course of the game as the one-way traffic towards the Newcastle goal continued.
Nunez’s night ended in frustration as another golden chance came and went with his final touch as he headed wide.
Jurgen Klopp sent on Diogo Jota and Gakpo and they delivered when Nunez did not in front of goal.
Jota teed up Jones for a tap in before Gakpo’s scuffed finish from Salah’s cross wrong-footed Dubravka.
Botman’s header briefly brought Newcastle back within one goal.
But any hope of a remarkable fightback was extinguished in controversial fashion as Jota won a second penalty despite a delayed reaction to contact from Dubravka.
Klopp could not watch on the touchline, but this time his talisman did not disappoint to ensure the start to 2024 was a very happy new year for Liverpool.